Sunday, July 18, 2010

Career - a straight line, or a hyperbolic paraboloid?

I remember the early days of my career. I had joined Manhattan Associates, a supply chain software company, right out of undergraduate. Actually thats not true - I joined, which got acquired by Manhattan Associates. Coming from New Delhi to New England was a big step for me.I had joined with three peers from the same school (IIT Delhi) and this was worrisome for me. But why worry? While my peers were great friends, I also worried about what if my performance at work was not as good as them? I mean they were three dedicated, passionate and super-brilliant people. One of them is still with MANH, but will go on to start a great company for sure. One of them returned to India to start a company called And another is a rising star at Google. How could I ensure that I stay ahead of them, or at least along them?

But why am I remembering these facts now? Bumping into a friend from undergrad, who now happens to work in the same building as me in New York, reminded me of how I used to think of career as a straight line. As a race, where I was supposed to run the fastest, and beat everyone to it. But compare my friends career path to mine. He went from IIT to IIM, worked for McKinsey for three years in India, and now works for a premier private equity firm in India, currently on a rotation in the US. Me? I worked for seven years for MANH (yes, almost unheard of in this day and age, right?), changed jobs almost completely within the company (product development to sales), went to Business School later than most of my peers, and am now doing my summer at McKinsey, where most of my peers from undergrad, are already senior associates or engagement managers. And I knew that coming in - most of the people at my level are younger to me.

So why am I here? Quite simply, my hypothesis is that this step will help me get to where I want to go by:

1. Helping me learn essential skills, particularly skills of client interaction, presentation and problem solving

2. Giving me a great brand on my resume and helping me strengthen my network

3. Helping me pay off my Business School loans (And that is a LOT of loans).

So what will happen in the future? Will I end up At McKinsey or decide to take another route? Will my hypothesis become true? I will keep you updated for sure....

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